Sadly the triangular competition in the West Indies started off the way the World T20 finished for the South African team.
The Proteas were soundly beaten by the West Indies in the first match. The same problems that have been evident for a number of years in white-ball cricket regarding the Proteas surfaced again during the first match of this tour.
Nothing is changing in this respect. The basic disciplines of the Proteas have gone to an all time low. Defeat, unfortunately, is a variation of the same theme.
In the first match the South African line-up started well with the bat only to implode against spin and then fall away completely during the latter stage of the innings. The surface was slow and difficult for stroke making but the total that South Africa posted was well under par for the supposed batting talent in the group and the end result was never going to be competitive.
Defending a low total requires a slick and professional performance with the ball but yet again we saw far too many wides bowled which resulted in conceding too many extras.
A number of the South African players have to adjust quickly to life after the IPL. The IPL has become the focal point of the careers of most top players. This is understandable due to the huge financial rewards on offer. Players have become increasingly more motivated to perform in this tournament due to the substantial incentives that successful results offer during the IPL.
Cricket at elite level is becoming more and more an individual sport with players operating as free agents much like tennis players and golfers do. The only problem is that cricket still masquerades as a team sport and once the players step back into the international arena they have to adapt to the team philosophy.
Displaying the same intensity and focus that some of the players strive for and achieve during the IPL becomes a challenge. Hence the lethargic first performance in the West Indies. This will hopefully change quickly as the players settle into the pace of the international game once again.
I am a bit perplexed that in some quarters the feeling is that the coaching staff are off the hook due to the fact that the committee that was meant to review their performance has been disbanded. Surely evaluating the performance of a coaching team is a simple exercise.
Anyone who goes into a coaching role at top level should understand that the equation is pretty simple. Coaching is a results-driven occupation. Winning and losing is the catalyst. If the team wins consistently there is rarely a problem. However, if a team has disappointing results over a period of time and the overall standard of play goes backwards, the accountability lies with the coaching staff and the senior players.
In the current climate the suggestion has been made that the responsibility of assessing the coaching staff will now fall under the committee that has been set up to evaluate the domestic competition. Realistically changes are needed in the management and coaching structure of the Proteas. These changes probably should have been done after the World T20, allowing a new coaching group to take the team forward in this triangular series.
Irrespective of what happens over the next few weeks, the sensible option will be to bring into the fold different individuals that can inject new ideas into the playing group. Ideally a coaching staff that will challenge and inspire the senior players, as well as improve the younger players should be recruited soon.
In the short term the senior players will have to turn things around for the team. We know there are world class players in the group and they will have to perform to the best of their ability and lead from the front if the Proteas want to compete successfully against Australia and the West Indies during the remainder of this tour.
It is unlikely that the coaching staff who have been working with the same players will offer anything new to inspire and change the fortunes of the team.
This one is up to AB de Villiers and his trusted boys to do themselves and the rest of the country proud.